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Lipoprotein lipase appears to function as the mechanism by which dietary vitamin E (tocopherol) is transferred from chylomicrons to tissues. In patients with lipoprotein lipase deficiency, more than 85% of both the circulating triglyceride and tocopherol is contained in the chylomicron fraction. The studies presented here show that the in vitro addition of bovine milk lipoprotein lipase (lipase) to chylomicrons in the presence of human erythrocytes or fibroblasts (and bovine serum albumin [BSA]) resulted in the hydrolysis of the triglyceride and the transfer of both fatty acids and tocopherol to the cells; in the absence of lipase, no increase in cellular tocopherol was detectable. The incubation system was simplified to include only fibroblasts, BSA, and Intralipid (an artificial lipid emulsion containing 10% soybean oil, which has gamma but not alpha tocopherol). The addition of lipase to this system also resulted in the transfer of tocopherol (gamma) to the fibroblasts. Addition of both lipase and its activator, apolipoprotein CII, resulted in a further increase in the cellular tocopherol content, but apolipoprotein CII alone had no effect. Heparin, which is known to prevent the binding of lipoprotein lipase to the cell surface membrane, abrogated the transfer of tocopherol to fibroblasts without altering the rate of triglyceride hydrolysis. Thus, in vitro tocopherol is transferred to cells during hydrolysis of triglyceride by the action of lipase, and for this transfer of tocopherol to occur, the lipase itself must bind to the cell membrane.